Top quality professional golf action returns to the Ballymena area this week.
Another stellar field will gather for the Northern Ireland Open, in association Maui Jim Sunglasses, at Galgorm Castle where former Ryder Cup players and stars of the future will compete in the £140,000 (€170,000) Challenge Tour event between Thursday and Sunday.
Five-time European Tour winner Michael Hoey will be one of the star attractions and the Tournament Ambassador is aiming for glory.
“I would love to get into contention and give the crowds something to cheer about,” said Hoey, who called a penalty on himself and eventually missed the cut last year.
“I will be much better rested and prepared this time and am looking forward to competing on home soil once more,” added Hoey, who is also Galgorm Castle’s Touring Professional.
Last year’s event was won by Dutchman Daan Huizing, while the man he beat in a play-off, English former Ryder Cup player Oliver Wilson, will be back this year, along with another ex-Ryder Cup player, Philip Price, from Wales.
Other names who will be well-known to golf fans include former European Tour winners Johan Edfors and Pelle Edberg, from Sweden.
Home interest will be provided by Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy, one of four amateurs chosen by the Golfing Union of Ireland to compete in the event.
Admission is free to the general public throughout the week, while an added dimension comes in the form of a food festival at Galgorm Castle from Friday through to Sunday.
Before the tournament action begins for real on Thursday, the large crowds expected at Galgorm through the week will also get a chance to see some of their sporting idols in action.
Ulster, Ireland and Lions rugby player Stephen Ferris may have been forced to hang up his boots but that won’t stop the big Ulsterman featuring in the NI Open Pro-Am on Wednesday.
He will be joined by former team mate Niall O’Connor and Northern Ireland legends David Healy and Pat Jennings, who has been a great supporter of events at Galgorm over the years.
Other local interest includes comedian May McFettridge and the BBC’s Stephen Watson, who will test his own skills before reporting on the event through the week.